UPDATED! Taking a Second Look at the Viva Full-Mesh Avatar: Why the Mesh Head and Body Wars Are Just Getting Started in Second Life

A month ago, I first wrote about the Viva Full Featured Mesh Avatar (Level 3), available for free on the SL Marketplace. After playing around with the Kalhene Ariadna full-body mesh avatar, and documenting its strengths and weaknesses (notably, a lack of alpha sections on the HUD and support for clothing alphas), I came back to the Viva mesh body with a renewed appreciation for all the work the creator had put into it. The HUD truly is amazing, allowing you to combine both alpha sections and clothing alphas to make just about any outfit fit!

For example, here is one of my alts, who wears an Akeruka Lulu Bento mesh head (one of their early group gifts), which I have grown attached to and wanted to keep. I originally wore it with a classic, SL system body; Akeruka had provided system skins to match the entire range of the Lulu head’s available skin tones. And for a long time I was happy with that.

But today, I decided to upgrade this avatar to a full mesh body, and while I was thinking about how best to do that for an inexpensively as possible, I remembered the free Viva Bento, Bakes-on-Mesh compatible mesh body and decided to try that again. (I wasn’t too crazy about the head that came included with the Viva mesh body, but that is a separate attachment, and you can use literally any head with it.)

Here is what she looks like now:

The only problem I encountered was that the system skins that came with the Akeruka Lulu head were older, and as a result there were white spots at the nail bases of the mesh fingers. To fix this, I used the free set of Bakes on Mesh feet and finger fixes available at League (exact SLURL):

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: Lulu by Akeruka (L$1 group gift, no longer available; the Akeruka group costs L$150 to join).

Mesh Body: the Viva Full Featured Mesh Avatar (Level 3) from the SL Marketplace.

Skin: I used one of the system skins that came with the Lulu head in a matching skin tone, adding the League Bakes on Mesh finger fix in the pale colour, which was the closest match.

Hair: Chella by Analog Dog (I picked this hairstyle with scarf as a free gift at previous gacha event)

Necklace: Metamorpheses Temple Necklace (a gift from the 2019 BURN2 celebration of Burning Man in Second Life)

Top: Cream embroidered peasant blouse by Petite Mort (this is one of my favourite freebies, available from the excellent freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil).

Jeans: Skinny jeans from Mara’s Mysteries (a free hunt gift, no longer available).

Flats: Amy flats by Hilly Haalan (free group gift from their freebie store; the group is free to join; I found that the Viva mesh body’s flat feet are compatible with both Maitreya and Belleza flat shoes, but the Belleza ones fit a bit better so I used those)

Bag: Boho Bliss fringe bag (with hold pose) from a previous Witchwood hunt (Witchwood is the sim where the Petite Mort and Oubliette stores are located, and they regularly hold small hunts; I believe I paid only L$10 for this delightful bag!)

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: Only L$161! (L$150 to join the Akeruka group, L$1 for the Lulu Bento mesh head, and L$10 for the bag)


I am very pleased with the result of this makeover! After my experiences working with both the Viva and the Ariadna mesh bodies, I can say this: with the advent of competition from free or inexpensive Bakes-on-Mesh compatible, Bento bodies, we are getting closer and closer to the time when stores charging (and users paying) thousands of Linden dollars for a mesh head and/or body is going to become harder and harder to justify. Yes, I know it’s a bold statement; hear me out.

The Viva and Ariadna mesh bodies are just the first shots fired in a war for marketshare between the established, big-name brands (Catwa, LeLutka, Maitreya, Belleza, Signature, Slink, etc.) and the smaller, nimbler upstarts. For now, the big-name brands have better designer support and offer more options, but, as we see with the fully-featured HUD that the Viva mesh body offers, that gap is starting to narrow!

I’d strongly encourage you to take a look at the Viva and Ariadna mesh bodies on the SL Marketplace, and give them both a test run. Although they are not perfect, they do give an indication of the direction the market is moving. The days of paying L$10,000 or more for a full-body mesh avatar may be numbered!

UPDATE June 11th, 2020: The Kalhene Ariadna mesh body has just updated to version 2.0, with alpha layer support (SL Marketplace link). It now has a HUD with alpha cuts and skin shininess levels, addressing some of my most serious concerns about the product.

In these final two pictures, I have combined the beautiful head from the Kalhene Ariadna mesh body with the Viva mesh body, using one of the Bakes on Mesh skins that came with the recent Limited Advanced head group gift from Akeruka:

Looking fabulous for zero Lindens! The Viva mesh body offers many more features on their included superHUD (such as a better selection of alpha sections to choose from, five different fingernail lengths, and three foot height options), which the Kalhene Ariadna body does not have. Here I just picked the shortest nails, in a natural nail colour, to go with this makeup-free look.

One particularly nice feature is the option to alpha out the wrists but not the hands, as I did for this long-sleeved minidress (a gift from Little Fox at the recent Cosmopolitan shopping event anniversary round). Surprisingly few HUDs that come with mesh bodies allow this—even the expensive brand names!

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Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The Free Roth 2 Version 2 Male Mesh Head and Body

A blog reader alerted me to a new, free, full-body (i.e. head and body) male mesh avatar that was brought over from OpenSim, called Roth2 version 2. You can pick one up for free from the SL Marketplace.

This mesh avatar comes with seven skin appliers included in the HUD, or you can click on the Bakes on Mesh button and use any Bakes-on-Mesh or system skin. You can use system eyes with this avatar, but mesh eyes are included, and there are five eye colour options in the HUD. In addition, you can select the Bakes on Mesh option for the eyes, and use any BoM or system eye texture on the included mesh eyes.

The Roth 2 HUD, showing one of the 7 included skin appliers on the mesh body
and one of the 5 included eye appliers on the included mesh eyes

Please note that if you are not using Bakes on Mesh, there are no alphas included in the Roth 2 package, but you can use the alphas that come with other mesh heads and bodies (for example, there is a complete set of head, body, and eye alphas in all combinations included in the recent group gift of the Freya unisex Bento mesh head from Catwa, which you can use here).

The default Bakes on Mesh skin that comes in the Roth 2 package
(with the system eyes that came with Bitsy, one of SL’s starter avatars)

After tinkering a bit with the body sliders, here is what the Bakes on Mesh body looks like (wearing the separate system-layer underwear that came in the package):

If you are looking for some inexpensive male skins for this or any other Bakes-on-Mesh compatible avatar, Cat Pink SL has produced the following video, showing many L$1 and L$10 skins available on the SL Marketplace (the URLs are in the text description below the video):

After watching this video, I spent L$10 on the Brandon skin from Fuku.toku from the SL Marketplace, and I tried it out on this avatar, which resulted in a look I like much better than the default Bakes on Mesh skin that came with the Roth 2 package (I did have to play around with the Mouth sliders a little bit).

I love the bushy eyebrows on this skin!

Here’s what the Roth 2 avatar looks like with some hair and clothes (the free male starter outfit, including shoes and socks, comes from the freebie wall at the No Shot store in London City):

In summary, this is a fairly good mesh full-body package at a price that can’t be beat: free! However, there is one serious drawback: the included alpha sections on the HUD, which are really quite basic (they work with both the mesh skin appliers and Bakes on Mesh, however):

Of course, if you are using the Bakes on Mesh avatar, you can always use the alphas that come with the mesh clothing you buy, in addition to (or instead of) the alpha sections on the Roth 2 HUD. (In the case of the No Shot outfit in the picture above, I used both the HUD and the alphas that came with the clothing and shoes.)

In addition to the free body, you can also pick up for free from the SL Marketplace:

  • an Extras package, which contains separate avatar mesh parts so that the Roth2 version 2 can be used with classic or other mesh heads, etc. It also contains the default skins as used in the Mesh Avatar HUD, a number of useful alpha masks, extra underclothing and attachable (unrigged) elf ears
  • a Resources package, which contains Roth 2 skins, textures for skins, eyes, textures for eyes, textures for the HUD, basic underwear, textures for underwear, etc.

Thanks to paragonfanfare for the heads up!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The Top Six Places to Find Free System Layer Clothing for your Bakes on Mesh Avatar (And Two Places to Avoid at All Costs)

Now, as you know, I have opinions.

And one of my firmly-held opinions, at least up until now, is that older freebie stores which consist of nothing but system layer clothing for classic avatars should be banished from the grid:

[I hate] horrible, horrible freebie stores that are unloading floor after floor of ancient system layer clothing. Freebie Galaxy is a 15-story crime against humanity and should be burned to the ground!

Well, now that I have had an opportunity to play around a bit with many of the free and inexpensive Bakes on Mesh bodies available (more information here), I am going to soften that hard-line stance somewhat. Because I have found that you can re-purpose these older outfits quite nicely sometimes, like this sexy black number I picked up at the Wise Heron Newbie Mall, which I am wearing on the free Bento Bakes-on-Mesh compatible mesh body called Ruthie from Tiny Things:

Now, there are a few considerations you do need to keep in mind when using system-layers-and-flexiprim clothing on the newer Bakes-in-Mesh compatible mesh bodies:

  • The clothing will be skin-tight, regardless of the settings on the Shirt Fit and Sleeve Looseness sliders on shirts, and the Pants Fit and Cuff Flare sliders for pants. Depending on the mesh body you are using (like the Ruthie body above), you might get a hint of camel toe as a result.
  • The waist on the system skirts is unlikely to look good on a mesh avatar, and cannot be adjusted to fit better.
  • However, one benefit of system skirts is that you can easily adjust their length, all the way from a miniskirt hemline to full-length ballgown length!
  • Also, you will be able to adjust the sleeve lengths and pantleg lengths easily on most system layer clothing, such as this jacket-layer low-cut top:

So, knowing all this, let’s take a look at some of these older freebies stores.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are looking for the best six freebie stores to pick up newer, high-quality mesh clothing, please use this updated list instead, or this older list. The following freebie stores may have a few mesh items, but they overwhelmingly offer older, system-layer-and-flexiprim clothing which can be used with both classic Second Life avatars, and the newer Bakes-on-Mesh compatible mesh bodies.

Helping Haven Gateway

Helping Haven Gateway

Helping Haven Gateway is one of those freebie places which should be more widely known (I find I keep forgetting its name, because I visit it so infrequently!). This newbie orientation centre boasts two large, white, multi-story buildings full of men’s and women’s clothing. What is available here is a mix of newer, mesh clothing from various designers, plus a wider selection of older, system layer clothing. There are some nice things to be found here, so you might want to drop by sometime.

The Freebie Megastore in London City

The Freebie Megastore

The Freebie Megastore in always-bustling London City now has a nice selection of mesh clothing for male and female avatars on their first floor (including some specifically designed for male and female Altamura mesh avatars), but they also have several stories of older, system-layers-and-flexiprims outfits. In addition, you can pick up some very nice system layer gowns and dresses at the Snowpaws store located just across the street.

New Resident Island

New Resident Island is a charming, helpful, medieval-themed newbie orientation centre with an excellent selection of both mesh and system layer clothing for both male and female avatars.

New Resident Island

Please note that some of the freebies here are restricted to avatars under a certain age (e.g. avatars which were created less than 365 days ago).

Freebies Warehouse

Freebies Warehouse

Freebies Warehouse has a well-curated selection of both newer mesh and older system layer clothing (also check the Sexy Girl store next door, which is a Stars clothing franchise and has a couple of free gifts you can pick up).

The Freebie Store at Ayuda Virtual

Ayuda Virtual is the lesser-known, Spanish-speaking cousin to the popular Portuguese freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil (which is my number-one-ranked freebie store for mesh clothing and footwear). Again, there is a mix of mesh and system-layer clothing here. Menswear is located to the right, and womenswear to the left:

Ayuda Virtual

Wise Heron Newbie Mall

Wise Heron Newbie Mall is a fairly well-curated, well-organized freebie store, which is where I picked up the sexy black outfit you see in the pictures above. There are separate sections for men’s and women’s clothing. Menswear is to the left, and womenswear to the right:

Wise Heron Newbie Mall

Last AND Least on My List: Freebie Galaxy and the Freebies Dungeon (Go Here Only If You Absolutely Have To!)

Last (and least), I will namedrop the above-mentioned Freebie Galaxy, which is essentially a 15-story dumping ground for system-layers-and-flexiprim clothing, and hideous 2003-era prim jewelry and shoes, which you really should avoid at all costs.

And for the love of God, if you are saving Linden dollars by using the advice I regularly dispense on this blog, spend those savings and pick up some good-quality, modern mesh shoes! One of my pet peeves in SL are those avatars rocking 2003-era shoes with busted invisiprims and even bling! So not a look you want to emulate. Here’s a few places where you can find free mesh shoes on the grid.

Go to the Freebie Galaxy ONLY if you have an hour or two to spare, and you absolutely cannot find what you want at any of the previous places. Trust me on this! The place is a nightmare, but at least it is somewhat organized by category.

But, if you insist on seeing EVERYTHING, Freebie Galaxy and the Freebies Dungeon should be the last stops on your list. Freebie Dungeon in particular is a horror show, just a hodge-podge, an absolute disorganized mess. Go anywhere else before you head there!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The Limited Akeruka Bakes on Mesh Bento Mesh Head

Akeruka posted the following message to their group, called [AK] Heads News & Support:

Hi ladies, since we all are in this incredible hard time because of coronavirus, we thought about giving to you all ladies a bit of happiness doing this amazing GROUP GIFT; [it] is a LIMITED head, this head will NEVER be sold after it.

We don’t know until how much time it will be as gift, we will just wait [for] the things to get better in our life.

Guys, I know you want a gift as well but we are still working on [a] beta male Advanced head. Soon more news for you guys!!!

If you are not already a member of the [AK] Heads News & Support group, it will cost you L$150 to join it. Then visit the Akeruka store (here’s the SLURL) and click on either the big poster up top, or the three smaller ones underneath it. Pay the vendor L$1, and you will receive the Akeruka Limited head package.

As you can imagine, the store is quite busy, and it might take you a little while to be able to teleport in. In a second message to the group, the owner of Akeruka added:

Ladies, the gift will stay DAYS so [you] don’t need to rush, and do not click multiple times on vendor, it will not make difference, [the] vendor is processing all deliveries, so [you] need to be patient!!

So, if you can’t get into the packed sim, use a tool like the handy free Teleport Hammer, or be patient and wait a few days. But please, don’t wait forever!

Also, and this is a very important point: Limited is the name of the head, but this does NOT mean this is a head with limited features. This head is Bento and fully-adjustable. The package comes with many extras and nice additions.

Instead, Limited only refers to the fact that this is a limited-time offer, and after it is over, this head will no longer be available for purchase, unlike the past group gifts of Akeruka Bento heads, which would then be placed for sale at the regular price. Once this head is gone, it’s gone.

One more very important thing about the Limited head is that it is 100% Bales on Mesh. There are no skin appliers for this head, unlike previous group gifts; there’s just a folder of system skins in eight skin tones (in versions with and without eyebrows), and a folder of tintable eyebrow, blush, and hair base tattoos.

The Akeruka skin tones have quite a range. Here is the darkest skin tone of the eight (the eyes are mesh, they are included in the package and their colour can be changed on the HUD):

And here is the lightest, which would work well for goth girls and vampires! The alien version of the eyes is also included as an option in the Limited head HUD. Included in the Limited head package is a separate teeth HUD, which gives you the options of monster or vampire teeth—a nice touch, and something to keep in mind if you do vampire roleplay in Second Life.

I must confess that I spent a quarter of an hour tearing my hear out, trying to pull a look together using this new Limited head! No matter what I did, the Limited head remained a stubborn red colour. I was obviously doing something wrong, but what?

You see, I had paired it with the Altamura Juliet mesh body I had picked up as a group gift on Valentine’s Day in 2019, adding the Altamura Omega system kit (available for L$99 at this exact SLURL) to it, so that I could apply matching body skin. (The Limited head package contains a separate box to unpack, which contains body skin appliers in all eight Akeruka skin tones for Maitreya, Belleza, Slink, and Omega-compatible mesh bodies, so you should be all set to go without having to purchase anything else, something I have always liked about the Akeruka group gifts. Other stores sometimes offer a free head, but then you have to shell out for matching body skin.)

What I did wrong was, without thinking, I automatically added the default body-and-head alpha from the Altamura Juliet package like I usually do in setting up a new head and body from scratch, completely forgetting that you need to remove all alphas for Bakes on Mesh to work! Once I took off the Altamura body-and-head alpha, and put on a body-only alpha which was part of a freebie version of the eBody Curvy mesh body which I had in my inventory, I was then able to see the skin properly on the Limited head. It just took me a while to figure out.

So, let’s take a look at our finished avatar!

This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh Head: Limited head (L$1 group gift from Akeruka; it costs L$150 to join their group)
  • Mesh Body: Juliet by Altamura (a limited-time group gift from Valentine’s Day 2019; at the time I joined the Altamura group it was only L$50, but it now costs L$100 to join their group; this Juliet body is now for sale at the full price)
  • Head and Body Skin: Akeruka skin tone 4 (part of the Limited head package; I bought an Omega System kit for Altamura for L$99 and used the matching Omega body skin applier that was also part of the Limited head package)
  • Hair: Iris by D!va (free group gift located on the other side of the wall behind the front counter; the group is free to join)
  • Dress: Kattie by Arcane Spellcaster (purchased using a free group gift card last year; at that time the group was free to join)
  • Shoes: Sonnet pumps by Hilly Haalan (free group gift; group is free to join)
  • Animation Override: Chubby Girl AO by [ImpEle] (unfortunately, this free product is no longer on the SL Marketplace). This is a nice, simple, calm, free AO with no crazy movements. The Limited head includes a complete facial animation HUD in the package. The Altamura Juliet mesh body comes with natural Bento hand animations built in.

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: L$300 (L$151 for the Akeruka head, L$50 for the Altamura group fee at the time I joined it, and L$99 for the Altamura Omega system kit)